Do you want what you want to want?

It is hard to come to terms with the fact that what you always wanted for yourself is not what you want for yourself anymore.

When you grow up wanting to be an artist, your art is all you care for. When you become an adult you realize that there is more your care for than your art: your significant other, your free time, your family, your lifestyle.

That's when being an artist becomes really hard because in order to be where you always wanted to be, you need for your art to still be the main thing you care of.

The tendency at that point is to want it all. To want to be on top of the top while also have a personal life, a balance, a good lifestyle. But that is when you need to figure out what you want today. To do that, you first need to forget what you always wanted.

When you had those dreams as a teenager, you thought that being on top of the top would be what would bring you everything else: lifestyle, free time, true love. Once you're an adult, it seems clear that the opposite is most likely to happen: that you either have the amazing career by working all the time and having no time left for the other aspects of your life.

Does it mean that you have to give up your art? Not at all. But it's a matter of compromise. If you want it all, you can have it by working in your theatre community in your city instead of heading for Broadway; or you can be another violinist in the orchestra and it's ok if you're not the concertmaster.

In the end, depending on what you truly want, you will feel more successful having a bit of everything than having all of one thing.

The difficulty is when you are in between dreams: the ones you used to have, and the new ones you never knew you had.


Picture from http://visitsteve.com/made/everything-you-want/


Should you apply to this job?

I've been looking every week for the past few years for jobs on the same web sites, and what struck me lately is that some companies seem to be hiring over and over again for the same positions.

That leads me to wonder how much of a good company they would be to work for. I wonder why they wouldn't keep the same people for more than a few months at a time. It makes me think that they might not be keen on building healthy relationships and that they might be difficult to work with.


I've never applied to any of those companies so I am just making assumptions here, but I would definitely think twice before applying.

What do you guys think? Anyone ever had any experience with any of those companies? Would you be careful as well?



How dancing makes your audience go wild

The more you move at your instrument the better audiences think you are. Here is why.

I played for this Buddy Holly show last summer where I danced while playing the piano.

When I did that I was showered with compliments at the end of the show in the greeting line, as in: "wow, you're amazing!" "you have so much energy!" "you really seem to be having such a great time!" etc.

Except that when I didn't dance and just played the piano, the comments were much different: "who are you?," "where you on stage?," "oh, are you the one that played the keyboard in the back?"

This year, I did Spelling Bee and for most of the summer it was me and my boyfriend on the bass. I had to conduct while playing, which led me to do a lot of back and head movements throughout the show.

People would come out of their way at the end of the show to come talk to me and tell me nice things like: "you're such a great pianist," "how do you do it, playing all this music?," and I even got fan mail!

My boyfriend had to leave the run early to go to boot camp for the Navy, so I had a few shows left to do on my own. Guess what happened?

I didn't have to conduct anymore and so I moved a lot less. Not only did I not have nice comments in the end anymore, people even stopped applauding when I finished playing the exit music!

Picture from http://www.pianolessons101.com/keyboards.html 


Are you fit to be an opera singer?

Maybe you loved basketball growing up. You thought of pursuing it but soon realized that you were way too short to ever go really far with it. No big deal. 
Or you always looked at those beautiful models and thought that it would be a pretty cool job, before you came to the conclusion that you were never meant to be a skin-on-the-bones blond.

What you do love is singing and you definitely want to pursue it. Have you asked yourself if you were physically fit for it, like you would have asked yourself for other jobs? Sure it's an art, but it uses your body so is your body right for it?

Let's take a look at what your vocal folds need to be like for you to have a chance to ever possibly have a full working career as a performer.
  • Volume: I don't know why but there are people with small voices and people with big voices. Audiences pay to hear singers. As in, audiences want to be able to hear a singer sing. It seems to me that there is a correlation between how sustained and successful one's career is to how big their voices are. While there are some good secondary roles for medium voices, there are only rarely roles for small voices. Training might help you add a few levels to your basic volume, but if by the end of your bachelor it's still not there, or a year off after that with a different teacher, it might just not be an option for you.
  • Strength: this is the most crucial one because it links to other important qualities a performing artist needs to have, such as consistency. Can your vocal cords hold up when you are sick and tired? Can you sing a lot and still sound like you just started? Do you have stamina? A common belief is that training and good habits will teach you how to strengthen your voice, and while it's true that poor training will make your voice weaker, there is also a very important part of plain physical nature in this topic. While learning new habits might reduce the frequency of your voice breaking, you would need to sustain an amount of hours of practicing, rehearsing and performing at the professional level that would most likely be too high, and that would make for an inconsistent and short career.
  • Tessitura: that one comes straight from the Fach system. You have to fall into a clear category in order to be cast. If you don't go low enough to be a bass, and not high enough to be a baritone, singing loud and pretty won't make a difference, you just won't get hired. 

Before you spend all your money on a degree that may not bring you a return on your investment, make sure you ask yourself and your trusted entourage if you do have volume, strength and range. Of course other qualities are important to make it as an opera singer: musicality, tone quality, acting abilities, technique, physical type, etc. But those are only considered by employers if they are built on to the basis of volume, strength and tessitura.

I have personal friends who have all that it takes to make it, and yet it is already such a hard career to break into, why try to go there if your body doesn't let you?



Should you have a label?

More and more of us artists make a living by banking on their multiple abilities. You're a performer, and a composer and a sound engineer; or you're an actor, and a director and a playwright, etc.

Being able to do so many different things really is great because it makes you more marketable and gets you more gigs.

Now if you want to put all of your talents to work, there is one thing to remember carefully.

People love to label other people. To put them in categories. And to deal with simple ideas. If your different jobs do not respond to the same job description, then it's time for you to make sure you really separate them from each other.

Here is how to go about helping people to understand what you do without confusing them:
  1. You don't have to pick and do only one of your jobs, but you do have to make sure that you introduce yourself as only doing one of those professions when you meet people. 
  2. Don't even think about having all of your titles on your business card. 
  3. Different resumes and cover letters are a must for each job as well. 
  4. When you use social medias, each site has a different audience and with each site you have a different label. If you start putting your facebook on your twitter, or vice versa, you will confuse your audiences which will hurt how they see you.
Do you apply to a job by saying that you are finishing your studies? No, the employer will get confused whether you are a student or a professional. Do you send your compositions with an email explaining that you are a teacher in this prestigious school, hoping it will impress the employer? You get the point. You have to make whatever job you want sound like that job is your primary area of interest and experience.

This sounds obvious  but take a closer look at what you do and who you talk to. Do you have a clear label? Or do you unintentionally confuse potential clients?



What not to tell at you MFA audition

If you want to be a theatre teacher you need an MFA. Easy enough if it weren't for the fact that you do not need it in theatre pedagogy like the logic would want it to be, but in performance.

And if you want to be a working actor you also need an MFA in performance. Which means that getting into an MFA program is a near to impossible thing to do.

So the question is: should you tell the audition committee that you want to be a teacher, hoping that it would set you apart from all the other candidates? Or would you be better off not mentioning it?

The answer is, do not EVER say that your goal is to teach.
Tell the school that you want to be an actor, but never say that you want to be a teacher maybe, now, some day or eventually.
Sure, you need an MFA to become a teacher, but MFA programs want people that want a performing career.

To tell or not to tell is the question.
Not to tell is the answer if you need to get into an MFA program.


Should you have a cooler mind?

When I complimented actor Tyler Horn on his ability to be incredibly consistent on stage, he told me what makes some actors and musicians more successful performers than others.

Always keep a 10% cool mind.

For actors
  • For your fellow actors: your cool mind is what will make you able to listen to them, to respond to them, to make them feel something rather than showing them something.
  • For your production team: lights, musicians, props, etc... If you cue the music director when needed, or you follow him when needed, you keep your body in the lights, you always find your cue mark, then you're having a great balance between being in the moment and being self-aware of the rest of the production aspects.
  • For yourself: you need to keep a 10% cool mind to be safe for your own sake. If you are self-aware and keep in mind where things are around you, you avoid kicking them or falling, therefore potentially injuring yourself. Your mental safety is important as well. For example, one of Tyler's teachers talked to his class about working with John Malkovich on a movie, where Malkovich was doing this incredibly hard and emotional scene. Malkovich was in tears and clearly into the scene, when as soon as the director interrupted the scene, Malkovich got out of character and asked what he needed to change. 10% cool mind is pretty cool.
For musicians
  • For your technique: hard technical passages can easily sneak up on you, particularly after an intense emotional spot. The self-awareness of your body, and remembering technical aspects of the performance instead of getting caught in the moment and the intensity, is what can truly make a performance work.
  • For your audience: if you get too involved in what you are playing you stop considering your audience as being a part of the performance. Communicating with your audience is the true goal of any performance, and keeping a 10% cool mind is what keeps your performance generous and open enough to include the audience in it.
For actors
  • You are flexible and make changes easily: if a director asks you to change something in the middle of a scene, you should be able to do it immediately, even if you have to go through the entire beginning of the scene again. You should also be able to know after the scene if you managed to change it or not.
  • You spend more time getting ready for a scene than getting out of it: at the beginning of a run of a show and for the entire duration of it, you may take a long or a short while to get ready. Whatever you need to prep is completely up to you. But if you need a lot of time after an intense scene (let's say the rape scene in West Side Story) to come back to reality and get out of your character, that means that you are not safe enough and that you need to take a step back during the performance.
  • Once you and your directing team have agreed on a direction, you stay consistent with it: if it was decided that you would say that line at that particular moment of the musical vamp, you should always say it then, day in and day out. If you don't know if you are consistent with it or not, or if you believe that changing it every time indicates a high level of artistry, it actually shows you that you are not yet keeping a 10% cool mind.
For musicians
  • You are able to anticipate hard spots: your mind should be cool enough to know where you are at in the piece, and to know that a difficult technical passage is coming up so that you can prep yourself for it. Otherwise you will realize that the spot cam and went before your knew it.
  • Your performance gets better after a screw up: say that during a performance you missed half the notes of that spot you never ever screwed up before, instead of sinking you down, that mistake actually snaps you back into self-awareness (to not be confused with self-consciousness) and helps you focus and carry on a strong performance from then on. 
A 10% cool mind is what makes the difference between a true professional or someone who tries too hard. It is what will keep you getting hired because it is the basis of all the other qualities you need to be successful as a performing artist: flexibility, self-awareness and consistency.


Picture from http://www.solec.org/LouieLOMIT.htm


Want to know what life is like on tour?

If you ever wondered what life is like on tour, here are the best blogs that have been written straight from tours!

West Side Story World International Tour Blog:  Written by one of the two Tony's, Chad Hiligus. His blog starts in April 2009 at the beginning of rehearsals in Germany, and ends in May 2010 at the end of the tour in Taiwan. With a few entries per week, Chad takes you through the rehearsal process, media tours, days off travels and more.

If you want a shorter take of the same tour, Nicole, who I believe is one the Shark ladies, also has a blog here.

Spring Awakening National Tour Blog, cleverly named Totally Trucked. The author, Pun, is one of the production staff members. She posted very frequently, and put a lot of videos, including interviews of cast members, and a ton of pictures. The first post is from rehearsals in July 08 and the last from the end of the tour in May 2010.

Legally Blonde 1st National Equity Tour Blog: It is written by actor Nick Dalton, who plays Pforzheimer. Nick tells us many details of the process, such as how the union influences everything, when understudies get rehearsals and what happens when they go on, how they make sure to get the best dogs (yes, as in the actual animal) possible for the show, etc.  This blog starts with rehearsals in August 2008, has frequent posts, and ends in January 2010, when the author stops being a part of the tour.

Chicago the Musical International Tour Blog:  One posting a month by Terra MacLeod, the actress playing Velma for a year (August 09-May 10), from the beginning of the performances in Kansas City through Tokyo and beyond, to the author's transition from the tour to the London West End cast to the Broadway cast.

Rent the Broadway Tour Blog: The blog covers a period of eight months, from January to August 2009 and is made by different cast members.

Mary Poppins 1st National Tour Blog: This ongoing blog has been constantly updated by actor Andrew Keenan-Bolger, who is currently acting in Mary Poppins. He also did the tour of Spelling Bee as Leaf Coneybear. His blog also includes his experience in other productions, such as High School Musical for the North Shore Theatre.

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